Researchers found that people who ate more highly processed foods, such as fast food and salty snacks, had an increased risk of cancer, especially ovarian and breast cancer.
A study of more than 197,000 UK adults aged 40 to 69 was published this month in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet. The authors say this is one of the largest sample sizes ever used to study the health effects of ultra-processed foods.
Ultra-processed foods are foods such as sodas, sausages, salty snacks, and microwaved meals that are produced in highly industrialized settings. These foods are high in sugar, fat, and sodium and low in essential nutrients like fiber and vitamins.
But lack of nutrients is not the only problem: To extend shelf life, highly processed foods often contain additives such as flavor enhancers and sweeteners as well as industrial chemicals, some of which are introduced during production , some leach into food from packaging.
Some of these additives, known as endocrine disruptors, can affect the body’s endocrine or hormonal system, leading to obesity and increased risk of hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast and ovarian, New York Jeanine Genkinger, associate professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Genkinger was not involved in the study.
Chemicals in food
Phthalates Diformate, a chemical found in some types of food packaging and some fast food products, is also an endocrine disruptor. “These chemicals enter food primarily through packaging and food handling equipment, such as cellophane, paper and cardboard, and plastics that come into contact with food,” said the Environmental Defense Foundation, a nonprofit environmental group. “While used in many consumer products, prescription drugs, and medical devices, food is a major source of phthalate exposure.”
Between 2009 and 2012, participants used a “web-based 24 Hour recalls were conducted five times between 2009 and 2012, and researchers monitored their health until January 2021. The researchers calculated the percentage of the participants’ total food intake that ate ultra-processed foods.
Over the years, the authors have observed that for every 10 percent increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods, the overall risk of cancer increases, both ovarian and breast.
But not everyone has the same cancer risk, Genkinger said. People with low incomes and those without access to fresh food are often the most vulnerable.
Research shows that low-income households buy less healthy food than high-income households, and they also buy more sugary drinks and snacks and less vegetables and fiber-rich foods.
A REASON: According to the post A report by McKinsey & Company in 2021 found that one in five black households in the United States is located in a “food desert” — an area where it is difficult to find affordable or high-quality fresh food.
Last year, President Joe Biden talked about the need to eliminate food deserts, defined as areas where people live — mostly low- and middle-income communities — who have to travel long distances to buy fresh produce and other healthy food. The White House has pledged grant and loan funds to encourage grocery stores to open in those areas.
Because food prices have been rising—in some cases at record rates—it has become more difficult to keep costs down with Simone, a professor of epidemiology and community health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. In an email to MarketWatch, A. French said income households buy food of high nutritional quality.
Genkinger says that because high consumption of processed foods can lead to long-term health problems, “people who are more vulnerable or disadvantaged are more vulnerable.” However, she notes, “ultra-processed foods [more ] cheaper and easier to prepare.”
Lancet study adds to growing body of research focusing on health effects of eating processed foods. A 2022 study concluded that high consumption of ultra-processed foods may lead to cognitive decline.
Average consumption of ultra-processed foods among study participants was close to 23% of total food intake. During follow-up, 15,921 people developed cancer and 4,009 cancer-related deaths occurred.
According to a separate analysis of 99 peer-reviewed studies covering more than 1.3 million people in 2021, ultra-processed foods make up more than 50% of people’s diets on average in the US and UK, much higher than 23% of UK participants reported in the Lancet survey.